VIOLENT FEMMES – American Music Email List 3/20/2005

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Tour Dates:

2005 AUS/NZ Tour
3/20/05 Darwin, Discovery Nightclub
3/23/05 Rockhampton, Great Western Hotel
3/25/05 Byron Bay Blues & Roots Festival
3/26/05 Sawtell RSL
3/28/05 Dunsborough, Dunsborough Tavern
4/1/05 Kalgoorlie, Centennial Park
4/2/05 Fremantle, West Coast Blues & Roots Festival
4/3/05 Adelaide, Heaven Nightclub

4/20/05 Edmond, OK University of Central Oklahoma
4/22/05 Santa Barbara, CA Kramer Arena at Earl Warren
4/23/05 Lake Tahoe, NV Caesars Palace
4/26/05 Salt Lake City , UT Univ of Utah Spring Festival (Students only)
4/29/05 Madison, WI University of Wisconsin – Memorial Union Music

6/10/05 Jacksonville, OR Britt Pavilion
6/11/05 San Francisco, CA Black + White Ball
6/18 Sioux Falls, SD Th Brickhouse Brewery

7/15/05 Duluth, MN GreenMan Festival

8/05/05 Del Mar, CA
8/6/05 Saratoga Springs, CA
8/10/05 Seattle,WA Woodland Park Zoo Amphitheater
8/12/05 Portland, OR Bite of Oregon – Tom McCall Waterfront Park

In This Issue:
New Tour Dates
Femme Fatalist – an Article from
Guy Blackman

The songs they released 25 years ago are the reason the Violent Femmes still perform. And, despite a songbook bursting with new material, frontman Gordon Gano says he couldn’t be happier with that. He spoke with Guy Blackman.
Milwaukee, Wisconsin trio the Violent Femmes have been coming to Australia regularly since their inception in 1981, and receiving a warmer welcome here than just about anywhere else in the world. Australia has always held a special place in its heart for a band whose music seems to communicate the vivid intensity and confusion of teenage life to a fresh batch of troubled youth every year. Nearly 25 years since they were first released, songs such as Add It Up, Gone Daddy Gone and Blister In The Sun are still part of the rites of passage for musically aware teenagers desperate to get drunk, have sex, or even just borrow their parents’ car.

“There’s nothing about it that sounds dated,” says frontman Gordon Gano of his band’s evergreen appeal. “When somebody gets into this music, they’re not thinking, ‘Oh this is what bands sounded like in the early 1980s’. Because other bands didn’t sound like us in the early ’80s. That first album could have been done in the ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and it could have sounded the same way.”

With their self-titled debut album, the Violent Femmes defined a style to which they have remained admirably true ever since. The combination of Gano’s acoustic guitar, Brian Ritchie’s acoustic bass and Victor Delorenzo’s minimal percussion (often just a snare and a cymbal) arose from their beginnings as buskers on the streets of Milwaukee, but went on to serve as the fundamental blueprint for the band’s 10 albums, despite them occasionally plugging in to go electric.

Violent Femmes was released when Gano was still a few months shy of his 20th birthday, and in fact many of its songs had been written years before, while he was still in high school. The album – recorded for $10,000 and released by Slash Records for an advance of $0 – was a slow-burning sales sensation, the only record in Billboard chart history to go platinum (1 million sales in the US) without once entering the Top 200. Subsequent LPs such as Hallowed Ground and The Blind Leading The Naked contained minor hits, but it is really for their 1981 debut that the Violent Femmes are known and loved.

This kind of limited appreciation would be seen as something of a curse for many bands, but Gano seems unperturbed. “If it wasn’t the case, then I probably wouldn’t be talking to you now,” he says simply. “It’s really been the thing that’s made it so I can have a career playing music.”

But the question has to be asked, what kind of musical career do the Violent Femmes have in 2005? They haven’t released a new CD since 2000’s largely ignored Freak Magnet, and haven’t had any real radio airplay for a new single since 1991’s American Music (from the album Why Do Birds Sing?). What the Violent Femmes seem to have become in the 21st century is nothing more and nothing less than a touring band.

When asked if they are working on a new record, Gano answers, “Nope.” When asked if they are currently signed to a record label, he gives exactly the same response. Asked if they would like to release some new material to coincide with their 25th anniversary in 2006, Gano ventures: “It’s possible, it’s just we don’t have any definite plans. And I’m pretty comfortable with that. I think some of the other guys are getting pretty frustrated, but I’m all right with it.”

Nevertheless, Gano does write new songs from time to time, although they are only rarely performed live by the Violent Femmes. It’s one of the things about his band’s current status that does get to him, but even then Gano isn’t really too bothered. “Writing songs now, sometimes I think, ‘Oh I really like this a lot’,” he says. “And then I might wonder, ‘Well, I’m not sure how many other people will hear it’. But at least I think it’s good, and I’m fine with that for now.”

How do his new songs compare with those he wrote while still a teenager, the ones that continue to support him financially in his 40s? “I don’t compare,” he says at first, then blurts out: “They’re certainly much better than some of those old ones. But there’s a certain something that’s captured in each moment. I think it was Leonard Cohen who said something like, ‘There’s the wisdom of a 15-year-old, and then there’s the wisdom of a 50-year-old’. It can’t be compared. I would say there are good songs I wrote when I was 15, and there are good songs I’m writing now. And they aren’t the same.”

These days giving interviews is a necessary part of what Gano does for a living, but not something he really takes a personal interest in. “I quit reading anything years ago,” he says. “I know some people would say, ‘How is that possible? Can you really do it?’ Yes, I can really do it, it’s really possible. I quit reading anything and everything that’s ever written about the band, or any interview that I do.”

Consequently he doesn’t care that much about what he says to journalists. After a lengthy ramble about liking Australian audiences because they are neither too quiet nor too rowdy, Gano ends by saying: “Doesn’t that sound good? And you know what, I don’t believe a word of it! It’s like, ‘Yeah, it might be true, and it might not’. I’m not going to read it – you write what you’re going to write, and that’s it.”

Gano’s jaded equanimity is impressive, although somewhat unsettling. It seems his musical aspirations have dwindled over the years to merely making a living by playing his best-known songs to as many people as possible. The Violent Femmes speak with pride on their website of having performed in more than 400 cities in 40 countries worldwide, in venues as various as Carnegie Hall, schools for the retarded, gay bars and the North Pole.

So for a band that makes almost its entire living through touring, a gig is a gig is a gig. “Hey, you know, it’s a job,” Gano says. “If somebody’s willing to give us the gig, then we’ll do it. We can pretty much fit in anywhere – we play folk festivals, we play rock’n’roll things. We don’t really fit in with anything, so we pretty much can play anywhere.”

And admittedly, audiences around the world still lap up what they do. Their last Australian tour in 2003 blew out from an initially cautious nine shows to a huge 27-gig extravaganza, including sold-out shows everywhere from Darwin to Geelong.

The band speak with affection of the audience as their “fourth member”, who remains forever young despite the other band members’ greying hair and widening waistlines. “There was a certain time, when we first started playing, when we were the youngest ones and the audience was older,” Gano recalls. “But then after a few years it shifted, where we kept getting older and the audience got younger and younger. It’s great, it’s really enabled us to have a career with what we do, to have young people constantly finding out about the group and really liking the music.”

This is what has kept Gano, Ritchie and Delorenzo going for so long, through personality clashes, estrangement and a two-year period in the late ’80s when they effectively did not exist. “We have different views of that in the group,” Gano says. “My view is that we definitely split up. I know that Brian Ritchie has said he doesn’t consider that we split up. Whatever, it was two years we didn’t see or speak to each other. I’d say we split up!”

The band regrouped in 1988, but drummer Delorenzo left again in 1993, and stayed away until a deluxe reissue of Violent Femmes in 2002 made him nostalgic for his old band.

With typical bluntness, Gano ascribes the Violent Femmes’ long tenure to the fact that they never really liked each other anyway. “My partners in this project are not going to like me saying this, but I think maybe the secret of our success is that we were never friends,” he says. “Whatever disagreements we’d have, it wasn’t like, ‘My friend stabbed me in the back’. No, I got stabbed in the back, but it wasn’t my friend – so it’s easier to get over it.”

But, thankfully, Gano is not so terminally cynical when it comes to his view of the worth of the band he has fronted for nearly 25 years. “There’s something special about how it sounds when we play together,” he admits. “There is a sound with this band when we all play together, something that’s special and not very common, and that’s really the thing that drew us all back together, thinking that the music deserves it. We can do good music outside of the band, and I think we all have, but there is something special with the three of us and how we approach music and how it all comes together.”

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